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liuzhou

Mushrooms and Fungi in China

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An eG member recently asked me by private message about mushrooms in China, so I thought I'd share some information here.

What follows is basically extracted from my blog and describes what is available in the markets and supermarkets in the winter months - i.e now.

 

FRESH FUNGI

 

December sees the arrival of what most westerners deem to be the standard mushroom – the button mushroom (小蘑菇 xiǎo mó gū). Unlike in the west where they are available year round, here they only appear when in season, which is now. The season is relatively short, so I get stuck in.

 

Buttonmushrooms.jpg

 

The standard mushroom for the locals is the one known in the west by its Japanese name, shiitake. They are available year round in the dried form, but for much of the year as fresh mushrooms. Known in Chinese as 香菇 (xiāng gū), which literally means “tasty mushroom”, these meaty babies are used in many dishes ranging from stir fries to hot pots.

 

800px-Fresh_shiitake_mushrooms.jpg

 

Second most common are the many varieties of oyster mushroom. The name comes from the majority of the species’ supposed resemblance to oysters, but as we are about to see the resemblance ain’t necessarily so.

 

Oyster_mushoom.jpg

 

The picture above is of the common oyster mushroom, but the local shops aren’t common, so they have a couple of other similar but different varieties.

 

Pleurotus geesteranus, 秀珍菇 (xiù zhēn gū) (below) are a particularly delicate version of the oyster mushroom family and usually used in soups and hot pots.

 

PleurotusgeesteranusMedium.jpg

 

凤尾菇 (fèng wěi gū), literally “Phoenix tail mushroom”, is a more robust, meaty variety which is more suitable for stir frying.

 

PleurotusJurcaMedium.jpg

 

Another member of the pleurotus family bears little resemblance to its cousins and even less to an oyster. This is pleurotus eryngii, known variously as king oyster mushroom, king trumpet mushroom or French horn mushroom or, in Chinese 杏鲍菇 (xìng bào gū). It is considerably larger and has little flavour or aroma when raw. When cooked, it develops typical mushroom flavours. This is one for longer cooking in hot pots or stews.

 

Kingoystermushrooms.jpg

 

One of my favourites, certainly for appearance are the clusters of shimeji mushrooms. Sometimes known in English as “brown beech mushrooms’ and in Chinese as 真姬菇 zhēn jī gū or 玉皇菇 yù huáng gū, these mushrooms should not be eaten raw as they have an unpleasantly bitter taste. This, however, largely disappears when they are cooked. They are used in stir fries and with seafood. Also, they can be used in soups and stews. When cooked alone, shimeji mushrooms can be sautéed whole, including the stem or stalk. There is also a white variety.

 

ShimejiMedium.jpg

 

Next up we have the needle mushrooms. Known in Japanese as enoki, these are tiny headed, long stemmed mushrooms which come in two varieties – gold (金針菇 jīn zhēn gū) and silver (银针菇 yín zhēn gū)). They are very delicate, both in appearance and taste, and are usually added to hot pots.

 

Goldenenokimushrooms.jpg

 

Enokimushrooms.jpg

 

Then we have these fellows – tea tree mushrooms (茶树菇 chá shù gū). These I like. They take a bit of cooking as the stems are quite tough, so they are mainly used in stews and soups. But their meaty texture and distinct taste is excellent. These are also available dried.

 

800px-Tea_tree_mushrooms.jpg

 

Then there are the delightfully named 鸡腿菇 jī tuǐ gū or “chicken leg mushrooms”. These are known in English as "shaggy ink caps". Only the very young, still white mushrooms are eaten, as mature specimens have a tendency to auto-deliquesce very rapidly, turning to black ‘ink’, hence the English name.

 

800px-Coprinus_comatus2.jpg

 

Not in season now, but while I’m here, let me mention a couple of other mushrooms often found in the supermarkets. First, straw mushrooms (草菇 cǎo gū). Usually only found canned in western countries, they are available here fresh in the summer months. These are another favourite – usually braised with soy sauce – delicious! When out of season, they are also available canned here.

 

800px-Straw_mushrooms.jpg

 

Then there are the curiously named Pig Stomach Mushrooms (猪肚菇 zhū dù gū). These are another favourite. They make a lovely mushroom omelette. Also, a summer find.

 

zhudugu.jpg

 

And finally, not a mushroom, but certainly a fungus and available fresh is the wood ear (木耳 mù ěr). It tastes of almost nothing, but is prized in Chinese cuisine for its crunchy texture. More usually sold dried, it is available fresh in the supermarkets now.

 

800px-Fresh_wood_ear_fungus.jpg

 

Please note that where I have given Chinese names, these are the names most commonly around this part of China, but many variations do exist.

 

Coming up next - the dried varieties available.


Edited by liuzhou Formatting (log)
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DRIED MUSHROOMS

 

The widest selection of dried fungi is to be found, not in the supermarkets, but in the traditional Chinese medicine pharmacies. They are believed to cure almost everything and some, such as ganoderma, are being seriously investigated by western scientists for their alleged anti-cancer properties. Here I’m only going to consider the mushrooms sold for their culinary qualities rather than medicinal.

 

First up, just as shiitake mushrooms are the most common fresh mushrooms, they are also the most common dried mushroom. The most common name for the dried variety is 冬菇 dōng gū, or ‘winter mushroom’ (so-called because they are picked in winter).

 

Shiitake2.jpg

 

They should be soaked in very hot water for about twenty to thirty minutes before use. We save the soaking water as it will now be full of the flavour of the mushrooms. It can be used in soups, stews etc for extra umami.

 

There are several sub-categories of dried shiitake mushrooms – the paler ones with cracked tops attract the highest prices.

 

The taste of the dried variety is usually stronger than that of the fresh. The drying process seems to intensify the flavour and scent. When buying them, I always smell them. The stronger the scent, the better the taste.

 

Dried shiitake are available in all local supermarkets, but if I ever get the chance to visit markets in the countryside, I try to find the mushrooms they have there. Picked from the wild and dried, they are fantastic. I’m fortunate to have a friend from a small village to the north, who brings me regular consignments. I can smell her coming!

 

Next we have these odd looking fellows. The monkey head mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) (also called lion’s mane mushroom, bearded tooth mushroom, bearded hedgehog mushroom, pom pom mushroom, or bearded tooth fungus. In Chinese they are 猴头菇 hóu tóu gū and are commonly used in soups, but can also be deep fried or sautéed.

 

800px-Monkey_head_mushroom.jpg

 

Monkey head mushrooms are white when fresh, but darken to a brown color when dried. They are very occasionally available fresh in markets, but more usually found dried. Again they should be soaked for 20-30 minutes before use.

 

Because of their meaty texture when fried, these mushrooms are used in Chinese vegetarian dishes to replace meat. When boiled in soups they are spongy and tasteless, but prized for their texture.

 

Then we have bamboo pith fungus, also known as bamboo fungus, bamboo pith, long net stinkhorn, crinoline stinkhorn or veiled lady, the last three names alluding to the lacy net like structure which hangs from below the cap.

 

800px-Bamboo_pith_mushroom.jpg

 

Until 1979, bamboo pith fungus was only found in the wild and then rarely, so was highly prized. In 1979, commercial cultivation began in Fujian province. The fungus is sold dried and requires soaking in hot water for around fifteen minutes before using.

Known locally as 竹荪 zhú sūn, the fungus can be used in stir fries, but is more traditionally used in rich chicken soups.

 

Then comes my favourite. Agaricus subrufescens or 姬松茸 jī sōng róng, also known as almond mushroom, mushroom of the sun, God’s mushroom, mushroom of life, royal sun agaricus, himematsutake. As usual, they should be soaked in hot water before use. They are slightly sweet with a delicate almond flavour and are delicious in stir fries, or with fish.

 

Agaricussubrufescens800.jpg

 

Then we have the king of all mushrooms. Boletus edulis, also known as cèpes, penny buns or porcini. Known in Chinese as 牛肝菌 niú gān jùn, which literally translates as beef liver mushroom, these I would use in soups or stir fries, with pasta or in risotto (or would if I could find risotto rice in China :angry: ) or in omelettes.

 

Boletusedulis.jpg


Edited by liuzhou Formatting (log)
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Other mushrooms which turn up from time to time include:

Termitomyces albuminosus

Grifola frondosa (Hen-of-the-Woods)

Craterellus cornucopioides (trumpet of death, black chanterelle, black trumpet, or horn of plenty)

Pholiota nameko - (butterscotch mushroom)

and I'm sure there are many more which I don't know.

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Wow, thank you for this and all the beautiful photos! Very useful.

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Quote
A very popular mushroom you see in stores is eringi mushroom.
Quote
This is pleurotus eryngii, known variously as king oyster mushroom, king trumpet mushroom or French horn mushroom or, in Chinese 杏鲍菇 (xìng bào gū).

 

See first post.

 

Quote
And there is the white kind of wood ears, "cloud ears"

 

Cloud ear fungus (Auricularia polytricha)(云耳 yún ěr) isn't white. It's brown.

The white wood ears are Tremella fuciformis or snow fungus, silver ear fungus or white jelly mushroom. In Chinese, it is variously known as 银耳 (yín ěr) or "silver ear", 雪耳 (xuě ěr) or "snow ear") or simply 白木耳 (bái mù ěr) or "white wood ear".


Edited by liuzhou formatting (log)

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i have seen taobao selling some black truffles from yunan.. maybe someone will be game enough to try...

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I was first introduced to the Royal Trumpet mushroom at a farmers market in La Jolla while on vacation in San Diego. I really love the texture which is much like that of a Porcini. I use them with reconstituted dried Porcini to get the blend of the texture and flavor of the Porcini. At first, I could only find them at Whole Foods for $14.99 a pound. Imagine my surprise to see much bigger and better ones in a newly opened Chinese market near my home for $2.79 a pound.

They call them Chicken Thigh mushrooms. I call them fantastic!

HC

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Yes, I've eaten similar hot pots in Kunming and other parts of Yunnan province. Yunnan is famous for its mushrooms, as is Sichuan.

But there is also a restaurant of this type here in Guangxi, where I am. Called 武陵山珍 (wǔ líng shān zhēn), it is part of a Chongqing based chain with branches across China.

Here are my thoughts on the place a few years back.

This time however, I was writing about the varieties easily available in my local markets and supermarkets and not those in restaurants. If I go out into the countryside and visit local markets I can find many more varieties. When I do, I'll post some more. :biggrin:

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The Chinese also eat morels, usually available dried (羊肚菌; yangdu jun, or 'sheep inetestine mushroom).

http://www.danielwinkler.com/morels_of_the_tibetan_plateau.htm

Even here, Chinese herb stores carry them.

The Wuyishan area in northern Fujian province, famous for its tea, also has a lot of local wild mushroom varieties. I don't have any names / pictures, but I had some cooked up fresh while I was there, and they also sell a lot of dried ones.

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Here are the dried ganoderma (灵芝 língzhī; ganoderma lucidum) I mentioned. They are mostly used in traditional Chinese medicine, but the packet these ones came in has a recipe on the back for using them with stewed chicken. It recommends wrapping the critters in gauze before adding to the stew, then discarding before serving.

ganoderma.jpg

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We get those same varieties of fresh in supermarkets up here in Hubei. I'm surprised more selection doesn't come over from Yunnan.

As to risotto rice, you might try mixing a small amount of one of the more "glutinous" or sticky varieties (maybe even the kind they use for 粽子) in with another kind of rice. I've done a nice risotto-style dishes here with other grains I found here - 小麦 (some kind of partially milled wheat berries I think) and 燕麦米 (a sort of long-grained barley or farro? dunno). The wheat berries especially cook up with a level of chewiness that I enjoy, while some glutinous rice combined with fat and cheese gives all the creaminess you could want.

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Yesterday I went to Chinatown and I bought "花菇".

By comparision, store white mushrooms are tasteless.

dcarch

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Yesterday I went to Chinatown and I bought "花菇".

Perfect timing - I was just going to post about this. 花菇 (huāgū), 白花菇 (báihuāgū), and 冬菇 (dōnggū) (see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiitake#Taxonomy_and_naming) still fall into the category of xianggu / shitake.

Huagu are what we usually keep around for using with Chinese cooking; I think they are a bit nicer than the smooth textured style you find in most Western markets (also available here fresh, though dried are most appropriate for many applications). The dried ones come in various sizes and grades. The top has a texture with a kind of flower pattern, which I'm sure is why they're called 花菇.

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Many thanks for the photos and especially the Chinese names, they'll be a big help next time I go to the market. I didn't know we could get porcini mushrooms, I'd been bringing them from the States. We can get risotto rice here in Beijing at Metro and also at some local shops & markets that cater to foreign foods. This is a search I did for it on Taobao.

Thanks for the tips about the King Oyster mushrooms, I'd been trying them in stir-fries where they definitely don't work so well.

Ok, happy cooking.


Edited by Big Joe the Pro (log)

Maybe I would have more friends if I didn't eat so much garlic?

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Thanks for the tips about the King Oyster mushrooms, I'd been trying them in stir-fries where they definitely don't work so well.

Cooking King Oyster mushrooms too long can actually make them quite tough. The trick is to cook them just enough, but not more. They should definitely have some chew, but shouldn't be overly tough. They are good lightly braised, and served on top of baby bai cai or other green veg.

They can work well stir-fried or pan-fried. They will always have that slightly chewy texture, though. My mother-in-law uses cubes of them mixed in with cubes of wheat gluten when she makes vegetarian gongbao "chicken".

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Here's a kind of catch-up on some of the dried mushrooms / fungi mentioned above but not illustrated.

First here is dried cloud ear fungus (云耳 yún ěr) Auricularia polytricha

 

yuner800.jpg

 

and then Jew's ear or jelly ear Auricularia auricula-judae. Most unusually the Chinese name is the rather prosaic 黑木耳 hēi mù ěr, which simply means black wood ear.

 

heimuer800.jpg

 

Finally "flower mushroom" 花菇 huā gū which, as has been noted, is actually a more highly prized type of dried shiitake mushroom (冬菇 dōng gū).

 

huagu800.jpg


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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      Also, Chinese restaurant dishes are often given have really flowery, poetic names which tell you nothing of the contents. Chinese speakers have to ask. One dish on my local restaurant menu reads “Maternal Grandmother's Fluttering Fragrance.” It is, of course, spicy pork ribs!
      Away from the tourist places, where you probably don't want to be eating anyway, very few restaurants will have translations of any sort. Even the best places' translations will be indecipherable. I have been in restaurants where they have supplied an “English menu”, but if I didn't know Chinese would have been unable to order anything. It was gibberish.
       
      To go back to Buddhism and Taoism, it is a mistake to assume that genuine followers of either (or more usually a mix of the two) are necessarily vegetarian. Many Chinese Buddhists are not. In fact, the Dalai Lama states in his autobiography that he is not vegetarian. It would be very difficult to survive in Tibet on a vegetarian diet.
       
      There are vegetarian restaurants in many places (although the ones around where I am never seem to last more than six months). In the larger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai they are more easily findable.
       
      Curiously, many of these restaurants make a point of emulating meat dishes. The menu reads like any meat using restaurant, but the “meat” is made from vegetable substitutes (often wheat gluten or konjac based).
       
      To be continued
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